The 21st Japan-Thailand Joint Trade and Economic Committee Meeting was held on 17 November 2008 at Shangri-La Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand. The Japanese delegation comprised of 75 delegates, led by Mr Uichiro Niwa, Co-Chairman of the Japan-Thailand Joint Trade and Economic Committee, and the Thai delegation comprised of 150 delegates, led by Mr Pramon Sutivong, Chairman of the Joint Standing Committee on Commerce, Industry (JSCCIB) and Banking and of the Board of Trade of Thailand (BOT).
In his welcome address, Mr Pramon Sutivong, leader of Thai delegation cited the significant role of the Japan-Thailand Joint Trade and Economic Committee in strengthening economic cooperation and relations between the two countries since its inception. He also noted that the trade value between Thailand and Japan has grown at an accelerated rate since the entry into force of the Japan-Thailand Economic Partnership Agreement (JTEPA) in November 2007. He urged both Thai and Japanese sides to immediately establish the Joint Working Committee on JTEPA within the Japan-Thailand Joint Trade and Economic Committee, aiming at reinforcing the implication and assessment of the JTEPA.
Mr Uichiro Niwa, leader of the Japanese delegation, referring to the long historical relationship between Thailand and Japan over 600 years, expressed expectation for the strengthening of the bilateral economic relations through the utilisation of the JTEPA. He underlined the importance of strategic partnership between the two countries that have to play vital roles in the regional economic integration in East Asia, also based on the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP) Agreement which will enter into force on the 1st of December 2008.
In his guest speech, H.E. Mr Kyoji Komachi, Ambassador of Japan to Thailand, stated that the importance of Thailand as a leader of ASEAN will be even more increasing in the process of economic integration of East Asia as well as in the infrastructure development of the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS). While Ambassador Komachi introduced the effective utilisation of the framework of business environment development under the JTEPA, he expressed expectation for the greater role to be played by the Joint Committee.
In his keynote speech, Dr Olarn Chaipravat, Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand, referred to the current difficulties in global financial market and emphasised the effects of the Thai government's economic policy package to overcome the crisis. He also stated that, the JTEPA at the bilateral level as well as the AJCEP at the regional level, will play an important and effective role to boost regional economic stability and accelerate regional integration.
Dr Pimonwan Mahujchariyawong, Assistant Managing Director of Kasikorn Research Centre, analysed the current situation of the Thai and global economies, and elaborated on the impacts of the global recession fear on the Thai economy. Pointing out the short- and medium/long-term challenges ahead, she concluded by expecting slower economic growth, but not a recession, for the Thai economy in 2009.
Mr Michio Ohkawa, Chairman, Policy Sub-Committee, Committee on Asia and Oceania, Nippon Keidanren, presented an overview of the current economic situation surrounding Japan and the world in the wake of the financial turmoil since the summer 2007. While Mr Ohkawa touched upon the challenges Japan is facing, he stressed the importance of the regional economic partnership in East Asia, thereby enabling Japan to realise sustainable growth together with Thailand.
The comprehensive progress report on development after the 20th Joint Meeting, as conducted by the FDC, the EDC and the SIIT, were presented with the following highlights:
Mr Paiboon Ponsuwanna, Vice Chairman, Federation of Thai Industries (FTI), presented the status report on the Thai food industry since the entry into force of the JTEPA, and urged both business communities to extend their cooperation in such areas as food safety and marketing promotion in Japan. He also reiterated the importance of eliminating administrative obstacles in implementing the JTEPA, and proposed that the JTEPA should be extended for more food and agricultural products, encouraging further utilisation of the JTEPA among Thai exporters.
Dr Katiya Greigarn, Chairman of the Electrical, Electronics & Allied Industry Club (EDC) of FTI reported that the EDC conducted major activities such as factory visits and training course on productivity improvement for Thai SMEs. He further announced that the EDC will carry out activities in 2009 such as the expansion of mutual recognition agreement of particular products' standard under JTEPA as well as the training on product design and development for Thai SMEs and on supply chain management.
Mr Fukujiro Yamabe, President of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce, Bangkok (JCC), reported that the SIIT was founded in 1992 by financial support from the FTI and Keidanren to enhance industrial development in Thailand and to produce the well-trained engineers. At present, the SIIT has been expanded to master degree and doctor degree. Keidanren has supported the SIIT students for the summer technical training in Japan. Since 1996, the total number of graduated students is 3,344, of which 3,223 in bachelor degree, 79 in master degree and 42 in doctor degree.
From JCC, President Yamabe and Mr Hiroshi Yamakawa, Treasurer, jointly presented the outlook for the bilateral economic relationship after the entry into force of the JTEPA. They outlined the expansion of business activities by Japanese companies along with the free trade networks being built in Asia, and concluded by expecting for greater functions of Thailand as regional headquarters of Japanese businesses in ASEAN under the JTEPA.
Mr Surapon Vongvadhanaroj of Board of Trade of Thailand (BOT) focused on the background of JTEPA which comprise of the government-to-government 12 sub-committees and the 7 cooperation projects. In order to expedite the implementation of these cooperation projects, he identified key issues that need to be pursued by both sides. These include the removal of incongruent understandings or interpretation between both sides, the implementation of the agreed cooperation programmes, e.g., institute of human resources development for automotive industry, and the negotiation for a better market access of some products, such as processed pork and raw sugar.
In the discussion afterwards, both Thai and Japanese businesses shared the view that private sector's participation should be also requested in the other sub-committees, following the example of the subcommittee on enhancement of business environment. They also agreed on the importance of private sector's follow-up of JTEPA, which will be worked out in the framework of a working committee under the Japan-Thailand Joint Trade and Economic Committee.
Dr Atchaka Brimble, Secretary General, Board of Investment (BOI), elaborated on the recent trend of foreign direct investment in Thailand as well as the Japan's key role in contributing to the industrial development. She took note of problems solved under the BOI coordination in line with the facilitation measures under the JTEPA. Dr Atchaka also demonstrated BOI's special package to stimulate investment in such areas as high-potential industries.
Mr Yasuo Kuroda, Director of the JCC, highlighted several valued business conditions as well as the ongoing improvement of the business climate in Thailand. Pointing out policies and measures required to further enhance the investment and business environment in Thailand from the viewpoint of the Japanese companies, Mr Kuroda expressed expectation for the possibilities of the remarkable business conditions in Thailand in the future.
Mr Mangkorn Dhanasarnsilp, Vice Chairman of FTI, stated that since the entry into force of the JTEPA, the export of Thai products to Japan has significantly expanded in terms of agriculture, forestry and fishery, textiles and apparels. Although the Japanese investment in Thailand has played a crucial role in developing domestic economy, increasing employment opportunities and transferring modern technology and technical know-how from Japan to Thailand, he pointed out that there is a need to promote more cooperation on technology and education in various industries, such as auto & auto parts, iron & steel, and textile & apparels.
Mr Phairush Burapachaisri, Hon. Secretary General of the BOT, reported the outcome of the 3rd Greater Mekong Sub-Region (GMS) Summit held in March 2008 which endorsed the Vientiane Plan of Action to accelerate the implementation of concrete programme on transport, energy, telecommunication, agriculture, environment, tourism and human resources development. He further identified possible areas of cooperation such as logistics development and contract farming for food industry along East-West Economic Corridor.
Mr Toshihide Hashima, Director of the JCC, underlined a variety of activities under the JCC-GMS Committee, and stressed the merits of the GMS Economic Corridors for Japanese companies in Thailand. Elaborating on the progress of these infrastructure developments, he emphasised the pivotal role played by Thailand as a strategic centre.
Recognising that the business communities of the two countries need to strongly request their respective governments to prevent further expansion of the economic turmoil in line with the agreements made by G20 leaders on 15 November, the Meeting adopted the summary of the 21st Joint Meeting as presented by Mr Haruka Nishimatsu, Co-Chairman, Japan-Thailand Trade and Economic Committee. It was also agreed that the date and venue of the 22nd Joint Meeting will be determined in due course.